It was a weekend of oysters on the half-shell, cold beer and hot clam chowder. As live music echoed over the harbor from the Montauk Marine Basin on Saturday and Sunday, revelers celebrated Montauk’s fishing industry at the first-ever Montauk Seafood Festival.
For its very first year, the festival reeled in many who wanted to get a taste of the fishing industry’s freshest bounty.
According to the festival’s director, Laura Mastandrea, about 4,500 to 5,000 people attended the festival. She said they don’t have a final tally of how much was raised yet this week, but that it was successful.
“All the numbers aren’t in yet, but we are happy it was such a success and for now we are full,” she said. “No I mean really … can’t eat another thing.”
Montauk restaurants 360 East, the Sloppy Tuna, Atlantic Terrace Cafe, Gurney’s Inn, East by Northeast and Sammy’s, joined by Hampton Seafood Co., Andrra and Zakura from slightly west, served up their best recipes for festival-goers to enjoy, while Montauk Pearls—oysters grown by the Montauk Shellfish Company—were available for the picking.
Richie Weiss, a member of the Montauk Friends of Erin, which put the festival together with the Kiwanis Club of East Hampton, said on Sunday that he was busy all weekend shucking clams.
“I’ve done at least 700 clams,” he said. “It’ll be even better next year.”
Joe Bloecker, the president of Friends of Erin, who is running for East Hampton Town assessor, opened 1,600 clams on Saturday.
Hundreds of people crowded under the tent perusing the food selection and handing over food vouchers, which looked like play money.
Ingrid Lemme, the marketing director at Gurney’s Inn, said the inn’s chef, Matthew James, served about 1,000 portions of his Manhattan clam chowder.
A man who identified himself as simply Mark L., because he was supposed to be out fishing, said he and his two friends had stopped at the festival when their luck fishing seemed to run out. The men, who are from Sayville, Massapequa and Hampton Bays, were all smiles as they sipped their cold beverages.
“It worked out perfectly,” Mark L. said. “We stopped in for lunch. Hopefully, we’ll make it back out.”
Kids who wanted to get in on the action participated in snapper derbies and raced goldfish.
Meg Nye of Montauk won the snapper derby on Saturday, reeling in an 8 1/4-inch snapper. She was “over the moon” and said she was going home to cook it, according to Ms. Mastandrea.
Perhaps most important, however, people had the chance to talk with “fishing legends” who have lived their lives on the water.
On Sunday, Bonacker Stuart Vorpahl explained to curious minds about his experience as a commercial fisherman and once-owner of Stuart’s Seafood Market in Amagansett.
“I can smell butterfish a half-mile away,” he told one man. A few minutes later, he explained, while holding the “sword” of a swordfish, how the fish hunts and feeds.
Noting the importance of such a festival, the executive director of the Long Island Commercial Fishing Association, Bonnie Brady, said the festival was a success.
“This is a great opportunity for people to eat some of the best seafood on the East End and find out where local seafood comes from,” she said. “A lot of mom and pop restaurants and stores depend on commercial fishermen. This a healthy, sustainable industry.”
Ms. Mastandrea said she was proud that the festival’s goal was met this weekend.
“On these sunny days, with kids trying seafood for the first time to lobster roll-eating veterans and card-carrying shellfish shuckers, we all had a healthy dose of what Montauk and the East End serves up daily—the best seafood prepared by talented and creative chefs, restaurants and caterers,” she said. “We look forward to next year with a bigger and more enhanced rollout of seafood stations and activities.”